This article is part one of three. This one talks about why I don’t love Record Store Day. The next one talks about the best of the official 2019 releases. And the final one bigs up some cool independent ska and punk releases you can also get this month…
I love vinyl.
I love listening to records, I love holding them, supporting bands with them, looking at the artwork, all that. I suspect I’ve even licked one at some point.
Ultimately there’s something so just solidly real about the time it takes, the intention it requires to find the right one, peel it out of its layers of plastic, outer case, liner notes… and chuck it onto your turntable. Dropping the needle down, inevitably discovering you put it on at 33rpm by mistake when it should have been 45, all of that.
The crackle, the pop, the hiss, and then the warm fuzzy sound as it comes through. My kids love the fact that the needle brings it all to life, that you can even hear it if you don’t turn on the amp. Vinyl is a little bit magical.
Some of my finest teenage afternoons involved spending hours on the train into London, just to visit Virgin Megastore, or even better, swinging via All Ages Records in Camden – still open, still amazing! As I grew up, my love of record stores followed me, with Record Collector in Sheffield accommodating my needs at first, then the glorious reality of Nevermind the Music Store in Boston reignited my love.
In the past few years, Warrington’s lack of a decent independent store (or at least one that sells punk) has left me high and dry, but I’ve kept the flame alive with X-Records in Bolton. And then 2019 has brought the amazing online store Side Mission Records too, who have probably been quite unhealthy for my bank balance, storage space and possibly marriage!
I… don’t love Record Store Day.
So Record Store Day should be right up my alley, right? Camping out overnight, or getting up at 5am to queue up with other people who share my passion? Buying some cool-but-fun limited releases, and supporting my local store at the same time? Being part of a tactile real experience?
In reality, I tend to find the whole thing a bit disappointing. The releases available are a bit… bland? Certainly the whole thing seems a bit too geared to spectacled collectors of Pink Floyd one offs. There’s definitely a paucity of cool stuff this year. And almost nothing from the world of UK Ska Punk, which obviously I’m a bit obsessed with.
Plus, the fundamental “good time” experience of the humble local record shop is ruined. Instead of calmly browsing for an hour, chatting about obscure bands with the dude behind the counter, you stand in a queue, unable to look at the records. You worry the ones you want will sell out before you get there, and when you get to the front, the huge queue behind you creates a pressure that’s too heavy to allow you to calmly flick through, changing your mind back and forth.
“Well genius, what do I do then?”
Firstly, support your local Record Store… the other 364 days of the year. Go in in early February, in the quiet shift, and dump some well deserved cash. RSD is a great time for the shops, but they need to pay wages all year, not just one weekend in April.
Secondly, if you do decide to brave the RSD queues, go with a mate, and have a laugh. Don’t take it too seriously, and take some time to sit down and listen to whatever you bought together. I’m planning on camping out one year with my 6 year old daughter, and just buying whatever 7 inch she thinks looks pretty.
Finally, just buy some records and enjoy them! I can thoroughly recommend Side Mission Records for a personal, friendly and enthusiastic service. I almost never get *only* what I order from them, they always chuck freebies in! Visit labels directly, like Bad Granola Records, or TNS Records. Or possibly the best: go to a gig, and support the bands you love, in a way that shows you value them and their art!
I’m gonna chuck out another couple of posts this week, one on my preferred releases from the 2019 crowd, and one on some cool independent releases you might wanna consider from the great host of flippin’ awesome labels we have in the UK.
Till then, keep those discs spinning… and try to remember to change it to 45rpm before you start!